There is something about developing photographic images - whether it be in a darkroom or an instant polaroid or a cyanotype - that never ceases to fill me with a child-like wonder. To see an image developing before my eyes makes me feel like I am witnessing magic. So you can imagine how excited I was to discover that my local art store sells a photo-sensitive dye (the colour develops with exposure to sunlight) that can be applied to pretty much any porous surface (the particular brand I used was called Inkodye).
I immediately thought of making botanical sun-prints - a simple way of preserving some of my most loved transient summer plants and bringing them into my home to be appreciated throughout the year.
First, I collected a few bits and pieces of plants from my garden that had a variety of different silhouettes. I placed my fabric on a board and painted it with the dye in a dark area of my house (so as not to expose the dye yet), and then arranged the pieces of plants on the fabric.
When I was happy with the composition, I took the board outside and placed it in direct sunlight. It was a bright day, so it reached full saturation in about ten minutes (but can take up to 20 minutes).
I brought the board back inside where it was dark and removed the pieces of plants. The areas that had been exposed to sunlight had transformed into a deep blue, while the spots that had been covered with plants remained white. I rinsed the fabric in the sink and then threw it in the wash on hot/cold. Inkodye sells their own detergent, but I used regular laundry detergent and it did the job.
I decided to sew my print into a pillow, but there are so many other possible options. Next time I plan on making a tote bag for carrying my groceries.